INDEPENDENT LENS to Immerse Viewers Inside the “Philly D.A.” – Tuesday, April 20 at 9 pm

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Docuseries set in the office of the Philadelphia District Attorney over course of three years follows unapologetic reformer Larry Krasner and his team as they transform the criminal justice system from the inside

“Philly D.A.” marks INDEPENDENT LENS’ most ambitious episodic project to date


PBS’s Emmy-Award winning documentary anthology series INDEPENDENT LENS announced that “Philly D.A.”, a groundbreaking docuseries from PBS and ITVS, will premiere on April 20, 2021. The eight-part series takes viewers into the office of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner as he and his team work to transform the criminal justice system from the inside.

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner addresses the press on election night.
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner wades into the new reality on election night.

“Philly D.A.” is the most expansive docuseries INDEPENDENT LENS has premiered to date, with new episodes airing over the course of seven weeks. In the vein of Knock Down the House and Flint Town, “Philly D.A.” brings viewers behind the scenes, giving them a vivid, firsthand look at a District Attorney’s office attempting to transform the future of mass incarceration, the culture of prosecution and the fundamental meaning of justice.

In 2017, Krasner, a civil rights attorney who sued the Philadelphia Police Department 75 times throughout his career, mounted a longshot campaign supported by activists and organizers, and ultimately won the District Attorney’s seat in a city that has the highest incarceration rate of any large city in the United States. From Krasner’s win in 2017 up to the present moment, “Philly D.A.” brings viewers inside the emotional, high-stakes work that Krasner and an ensemble of idealistic outsiders from different walks of life take on as they strive to overhaul an entrenched criminal justice system while grappling with detractors, political opposition and a skeptical public.

Verité documentary filmmakers Ted Passon and Yoni Brook secured wide-ranging access to the District Attorney’s office, embedding themselves on a near daily basis for the last three years. This unfiltered access captures Krasner’s dramatic first year in office and documents the day-to- day struggles of trying to change the entrenched criminal justice system. Krasner and his team drew national headlines as they pushed for reforms such as prosecuting police misconduct and brutality, rethinking sentencing, reforming probation and parole, minimizing the use of cash bail, and ending pursuit of the death penalty.

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner stands surrounded by boxes of case files
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner contemplates the back history of the department.

“The District Attorney’s office is an opaque institution, but integral to local policy making, and has a profound effect on how citizens live in any community,” said Passon and Brook. “Krasner is just one of a growing number of progressive prosecutors taking office around the country, and so we hope this behind-the-scenes portrait of a city in the midst of change will help inform the public about this movement. “Philly D.A.” highlights the nuts and bolts of a public institution and prompts questions around the culture that it’s built on, so there’s no more fitting platform to present it on than INDEPENDENT LENS and PBS, where it will be accessible to everyone around the country, and will hopefully provoke the rigorous conversations we should be having around our criminal justice system.”

While crime, punishment and policing have been subjects intensely explored through film and television, the District Attorney’s office has been an entity largely inaccessible to the public eye until now. Though much of “Philly D.A.” is shot inside the D.A.’s office, the series also takes to the streets of various neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia and into the lives of people who are directly impacted by the decisions made downtown. Each episode moves back and forth between the D.A.’s office and personal stories from those affected, including those currently incarcerated, victims of crime, political opponents, activists and concerned residents. Through real-time interviews with Krasner, his team and those who disagree with his approach, including prosecutors in his own office, sitting judges, victims of crime and law enforcement officials, “Philly D.A.” captures a never-before-seen, in-depth look inside the justice system as old and new guards clash.

Philadelphia District Attorney, Larry Krasner, at desk.
Philadelphia District Attorney, Larry Krasner, at desk.

“These enormously talented filmmakers have accomplished something incredibly rare,” said Lois Vossen, executive producer of INDEPENDENT LENS. “They have used their extraordinary access to the District Attorney’s office in Philadelphia to tell a complex and nuanced story of national scope and importance that feels as contemporary as today’s headlines, with all the high stakes of a procedural drama, and they’ve constructed it across multiple episodes. It is a privilege to present such a powerful docuseries as “Philly D.A.” on INDEPENDENT LENS.”

“Philly D.A.” is the first multi-part series to premiere as part of a five-year pipeline of criminal justice content presented by INDEPENDENT LENS under its Stories for Justice public media partnership. Through a groundswell of more than 20 documentary films and docuseries about the racial inequities of the criminal justice system, the public media partnership aims to increase understanding and inspire local communities to support reform.

Earlier this month, “Philly D.A.” debuted episodes one and two at the Sundance Film Festival to praise: Variety called the series “compelling … empowering … an eye-opening exploration inside a powerful big-city government” and The Hollywood Reporter lauded the series as a “nuanced and provocative look at American urban justice.” Additionally, co-creator and producer Nicole Salazar received the 2021 Sundance Institute | Amazon Studios Producers Award for Nonfiction Filmmaking. Next up, the series will be the first ever docuseries featured in the Berlin International Film Festival.